SWINDON’S David Howell believes Rory McIlroy will go on to become the best British golfer of all time following his Open victory in Liverpool at the weekend.
The Northern Irishman led the field from start to finish to take the Claret Jug, leaving him just a Masters title short of winning a career grand slam achieved by only six men in the history of the game.
McIlroy’s third major victory also puts him halfway to Sir Nick Faldo’s total of six (three Opens and three Masters), the best of any Briton, and Howell believes the Holywood-born player will soon pass that total.
“Rory is an amazing talent and he’s really got something special about him,” he said.
“Ever since he burst onto the tour he’s been a talent which has almost been unmatched, there certainly aren’t many who can hope to live with him when he’s on the right course, in the right conditions and when his game’s at its best.
“Everything collided for him at Hoylake, he was in good form, the course suited him and the weather held and played to his strengths.
“If you put all those things together he is almost unbeatable and he was a very worthy winner as he was in complete control.
“There have been some amazing players from Britain over the years, Faldo being the best of them so far, but Rory’s already halfway to Nick’s total and I would say there’s a fair chance he will beat that.
“You know when you see a special player, you can tell, and Rory is certainly one of those.”
Howell was given an early glimpse of what McIlroy was capable of when he played nine holes with him prior to the Open at Carnoustie in 2007, McIlroy’s first as an amateur, but the Swindon player didn’t quite see the best of the then teenager.
“I actually played a practice round with him when he played his first ever Open as an amateur at Carnoustie,” he said.
“I played with him and Darren Clarke and Rory had a massive reputation at the point, but for those nine holes he really didn’t hit it very well at all.
“That was just a brief glimpse of what he could do but he then shot 68 or 69 to go bogey-free around Carnoustie as a very young man that week and was very impressive.
“A few weeks later he turned pro and then his performance at the Dunhill Links, where he won his tour card, was sensational because he birdied the 17th with a fantastic shot.
“That was the thing that signified he was a very special player.”